About etiquetteer.com

Etiquetteer is known socially as Robert B. Dimmick. A native of Louisiana, Mr. Dimmick emigrated North for education, finally settling in that Athens of America, Boston, Massachusetts.

Mr. Dimmick spent his childhood attending weddings, reading Emily Post’s Etiquette, and being teased and taunted by other children for minding his mother, taking everything the preacher said seriously, and generally being a Good Boy. This ultimately led to an aversion to organized sports, television, and popular culture in general, and definite opinions about everything from restaurant dining to wedding dresses to historic preservation. Mr. Dimmick believes in the sartorial legacy of President Harry S Truman, getting out of the way of oncoming traffic quickly, and the tasteful expression of free speech. He is, all too often, willing to express an opinion on just about anything.

By day, Mr. Dimmick plans class reunions for one of those great big universities. By night he enjoys club openings, dinner parties, memoirs of the Fabulous, yoga, the music of the American songbook, and spirited conversation with friends. He invites you to behave with Perfect Propriety whether you want to or not.


Etiquetteer’s 2015 Holiday Gift Guide for Perfect Propriety, Vol. 14, Issue 42

November 23rd, 2015 . by Etiquetteer

It’s been a few years since Etiquetteer attempted to recommend Perfect Propriety in holiday gifts, but the time has come to make a few deft suggestions.


A gentleman needs to keep things pointing in the right direction, not least his collar, and the folks at Würkin Stiffs have come up with a way to do so involving magnets. They also involve “airport-friendly metal alloy,” so there should be no need to fiddle with your collar before approaching the Security Theatre of the airport.

We’ve all heard that a man has two handkerchiefs: “one to show and one to blow.” How would it be if that “one to show” had another purpose that mere display? Across the pond, Pocket and Fold have created a line of pocket squares made of microfiber, ideal for polishing eyeglasses and the screens of personal devices. 15£.

Yimps are blazing the trail for the comeback of men’s short shorts with a vintage flair,” and Etiquetteer couldn’t think of anything more Perfectly Proper, especially for the beachgoer in your life. $43-48.50.

Since the hostess aprons of the 1950s, things have only gotten worse for the middle class hostess, who has even less help in the kitchen than before. Indeed, so often the whole party ends up in the kitchen rather than anyplace else. To help retain some Perfectly Proper glamor, Etiquetteer recommends the Bombshell Apron from Jessie Steele, which would be gorgeous over a short-sleeved white blouse and velvet hostess pants. $35.

Speaking of aprons, there’s no reason not to design one of your own at Zazzle.

Big scarves are in this year, but scarves have always been Perfectly Proper. Fraser Knitwear offers some stunning wool scarves. Prices vary.

Your favorite traveler may enjoy the new Geography bow tie from Beau Ties Ltd., long Etiquetteer’s preferred vendor. Beau Ties Ltd. has a colorful and Perfectly Proper selection of other new designs, too.


Amy Alkon is an etiquette writer who takes no prisoners, and her Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck answers the cries of many. Paperback, $10.80. Read Etiquetteer’s review here.

For the literate gardener in your life, Etiquetteer highly recommends Henry Beston’s magically evocative little book about growing herbs, Herbs and the Earth. $16.95.

For the young man who needs Perfect Propriety, Etiquetteer suggests Becoming the Perfect Gentleman, by Zach Falconer-Barfield and Nic Wing. Paperback $18.95.

Fans of the British monarchy may also enjoy a little-known Christmas story, here beautifully realized by Jacob Gariepy at Dapper and Dreamy, A Christmas with Queen Mary. paperback, $10.00.


Dapper and Dreamy cards, illustrated by Jacob Gariepy, include not only traditional Christmas themes, but also the wardrobe of Jacqueline Kennedy, White House windows, and the brides of Downton Abbey. Prices vary; $10 minimum order required.

Crane, of course, remains the most deluxe Perfectly Proper American stationer. Boxed note cards make a Perfectly Proper gift, especially for children in whom you wish to inculcate the practice of handwritten gratitude. Prices vary.

For those who know that “high tea” really means it’s high time for a big feed, consider these teakettle notecards from Mercantile for invitations. $16 for a pack of five. They have many other delightful cards, too.


Alfred Lane has been producing some fine solid colognes for men. A great stocking stuffer, and much easier to tote about day to day than a bottle cologne. Choose from Bravado or Brio ($17.95) and limited-edition Enigma ($29.95). Alfred Lane’s Vanguard is available at Fine and Dandy.

While Etiquetteer can’t ever be said to be a fan of gift certificates – they sometimes give the impression that one has given up – Etiquetteer does know that ladies like to be pampered. (So do some gentlemen.) Consider a gift certificate to a spa or salon in your community for a day of beauty, massage, or a special beauty treatment. The resulting good feelings can only enhance the Perfect Propriety in the world.

For the stylish card player in your life, Misc. Goods offers stylishly redesigned decks of playing cards. Choose black, red, ivory, green, or blue. $15.

Etiquetteer has always had a weakness for paper lanterns, once so indispensible to the al fresco entertainments of the upper classes. Blue Q offers some charming – and some not quite Perfectly Proper – versions. $9.99 each

For those who don’t want an app for everything, Thinkgeek offers a 50-Year Calendar Keyring that Etiquetteer finds charming.

For those you know you like a bit of honey in their tea – or who don’t yet know that it’s not Perfectly Proper to have a jar on the table – one can find a lovely ceramic honey pot at Sur le Table. $9.56.


Repeal Day at the Gibson House Museum is coming soon! Get your tickets for Friday, December 4. Hotcha!

Etiquetteer Tours the White House, Vol. 14, Issue 41

November 17th, 2015 . by Etiquetteer


Last week Etiquetteer had the great good fortune to tour the White House, and would like to recommend that you do so as well. Requests for White House tours are handled through the offices of your elected representatives to Congress, so find out who yours is and follow the directions. Etiquetteer will admit to having been drawn to the House to tour after a summer announcement from the Obama White House that the tour format had changed to a self-guided tour, and that tourists would now be allowed to take photographs. From the White House website, “As of July 1, 2015, Smartphones and compact cameras with a lens no longer than 3 inches (stills only) are permitted on the public tour route as long as their use does not interfere with other guests’ enjoyment of the tour” [emphasis Etiquetteer’s.] Etiquetteer wants to offer a few tips to make your White House tour both enjoyable and Perfectly Proper.

It’s very important not to bring much of anything with you. Aside from the list of prohibited items*, there is no place to check anything belonging to you so you can retrieve it later, including your coat. This is because tourists enter the House through one entrance and exit through another; there’s no backtracking. Etiquetteer’s concession to this was to forego wearing a hat, which would of course be removed instantly on entering someone’s home. Etiquetteer rather regrets that Misbehaving Very Young Children are not included on the prohibited list, but to suggest such a thing would seem to some an Assault on American Motherhood. If Very Young Children must be brought, their parents should be mindful not only of keeping them out of the way of others – and there’s a lot of movement with so many people self-guiding about the House – but also of the historic importance of the rooms one is privileged to tour.

The tour begins outside, rain or shine, so dress accordingly for the weather. Etiquetteer also thinks you should dress for Perfect Propriety – one never knows when a Very Important Person might appear – but most tourists appeared in tourist clothes: cargo pants, jeans, sweaters, etc. Etiquetteer observed one large group of chaperoned high school students all wearing identical hoodies with their school logo, which has the advantage of being Perfectly Practical.


The line forms here, in front of the building next door to the White House.

Etiquetteer was fortunate enough to enjoy bright and brisk autumn sunshine while waiting in line with other citizens, chatting with the family from Alabama directly ahead. At the appointed time, National Park Service rangers admit those in line with tickets and government-issued identification. The line curves past a large equestrian statue, and then divides in two, where reservation forms and ID are checked by agents. Tourists then walk past another ranger who distributes small tour guides to an interior space where everyone is briefly checked and goes through a metal detector. It is very important to pay attention before to items not allowed on the tour; Etiquetteer witnessed a tourist have to give up some sort of prohibited item or be turned away.

Tourists then walk outside and approach the entrance to the East Wing. Etiquetteer remembers touring the White House in 1980 and entering directly from this entrance without the intervening security. One proceeds up the stairs and down the East Colonnade overlooking the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, and through a square room containing large portraits of former presidents and a small gift shop. (Etiquetteer thinks Millard Fillmore deserves better than to be hung over the cash register.)


President Fillmore surrounded by cashiers.

From here one enters the Ground Floor of the White House, where the China and Vermeil Rooms and the Library may be viewed. At least on the day Etiquetteer was there, the Diplomatic Reception Room and the other half of the floor were screened off. The rooms on this floor are not suitable for large crowds of tourists, as they have only one door. Ropes across the door keep tourists from entering. Etiquetteer recommends showing courtesy to fellow tourists by not spending too much time in the doorways; have a look and then pass on. Don’t become an obstruction for others.

Etiquetteer does not advise making political commentary on current or former occupants of the House to the Secret Service agents on duty. Staff of the House are loyal to the Presidency, and Etiquetteer thinks it courteous not to put any of them into a position of saying “No comment” to an Impertinent Question, no matter how humorously or mock-humorously intended.

From the Ground Floor one ascends a staircase and suddenly enters the East Room from a corner entrance.


The East Room

Mostly roped off so that one can appreciate the true scope of the room, the Obamas have added a few items created by groups they have visited or who have visited the White House.

From the East Room, tourists may proceed at their own pace through the Green, Blue, and Red Rooms to the State Dining Room. Throughout the State Floor rugs have been rolled back to preserve them from extensive tourist foot traffic, but this does not mar the beauty of the rooms, nor much disarrange the furniture.


Notice how the beauty of the Blue Room is retained even with the carpets rolled up.

Each room has two doors. For parties of two or more, Etiquetteer recommends splitting in half so that one half can photograph the other in each room. A uniformed Secret Service agent is present in each room to answer questions and share information. They are also there to keep tourists from sitting on the furniture, even if it isn’t behind a rope. Etiquetteer witnessed a Secret Service agent politely directly a young woman not to sit in a Red Room chair, even though it was not behind the ropes.


The deceptively available Red Room chair.

From the Red Room, the tour continues through the State Dining Room (with a peek into the smaller Family Dining Room), through the other half of the Cross Hall, and then out the Entrance Hall through the North Portico. This portion of the tour contains the location where most tourists want to get their pictures taken: the Blue Room entrance flanked by the flags and surmounted by the Seal of the President of the United States.


The most popular selfie backdrop in the White House.

Under the circumstances, waiting for the Perfect Photo Opportunity could take so long that the Secret Service might get overly interested. Etiquetteer considers that “making do” is the best strategy.


Etiquetteer could not avoid being photobombed.

It might seem odd to some that the grand piano has been placed in the Entrance Hall instead of the East Room, but one must remember that it is often used when there is dancing in the Entrance Hall, and that the East Room is used for many types of functions when a piano might be in the way.


And so the White House tour ends with an exit to the North Portico. Tourists want to linger on the steps, but the Secret Service firmly and courteously keep everyone moving down the stairs. Many continue taking photographs down the drive, and in the street outside the gates, and across the street in Lafayette Square. The entire tour was a worthwhile experience, not only to view the rooms which have witnessed so much History, but to see how valuable Fellow Citizens feel it is to tour. Etiquetteer encourages you to do so.

*Items prohibited on White House tours: video recorders, video cameras including any action camcorders, cameras with detachable lenses, tablets, tripods, monopods, camera sticks (the increasingly popular and menacing “selfie stick”), handbags, bookbags, backpacks, purses, food or beverages, tobacco products, personal grooming items (i.e. makeup, lotion, etc.), strollers, any pointed objects (which Etiquetteer took to include pens or pencils), aerosol containers, guns, ammunition, fireworks, electric stun guns, mace, martial arts weapons/devices, or knives of any size.

Forms of Address/Addressing Difficulty, Vol. 14, Issue 40

November 9th, 2015 . by Etiquetteer

Dear Etiquetteer:

My question is about the appropriate way to address letters and invitations to former government officials.  For example, my business is extending invitations to former governors, senators, and legislators to a formal event to honor an outgoing leader.  This leader formerly worked with and on behalf of these former government figures.

I learned that once an elected official, always an elected official. Once President of the United States, always President of the United States. Ergo, letters to a former senator are addressed as follows:

Senator John Doe
home address
city state zip

Dear Sen. Doe:

However, recent inquiries yielded the following:

The Honorable John Doe
Dear Mr. Doe


Mr. John Doe
Dear Mr. Doe

Which is it?  Or, are the rules different for each station?

Dear Addressing:

The folks over at the Protocol School of Washington back up Etiquetteer’s dimly-remembered reading from Emily Post decades ago. Here they explain that, when one no longer holds a position that only one person can hold at a time, such as President of the United States, one reverts to one’s most recent title that is also not a position that only one person can hold at a time. For instance, Hillary Rodham Clinton should no longer be addressed as “Secretary Clinton” because only one person can serve as Secretary of State. The proper address would be “Senator Clinton.” Bill Clinton, to Etiquetteer’s surprise, is now properly addressed as “Mr. Clinton.” His title before his presidency, Governor, is another of those one-at-a-time jobs.


Dear Etiquetteer:

I’ve recently had a very unhappy encounters with a friend and am unsure how best to handle.

“Friend” has had some very troubling family dynamics over the last couple of years, of which we’ve discussed in great detail and for which I have both similar history and deep sympathy. Like many close friends, we’ve shared many personal matters and have, respectively, offered feedback or suggestions.  I know the issues “Friend” has been dealing with lately have been very hard and emotionally exhausting and I feel it’s my duty, as her friend, to listen and be a comfort if not try to help without interfering. However, when we last met for our sporadic weekend coffee, as she went on about the latest chapter, she flipped when I tried to offer a perspective from my own personal history.  I wasn’t telling her what to do – just offering a perspective.  She got enraged, told me I had no idea what she was going through (which is untrue – I lived through her experience in more ways than one), started jabbing her finger at me, accusing me of crazy stuff that actually had nothing to do with what we were talking about, and went on in a rage until she finally realized I had my hands up saying, “Stop.”  I calmly told her what she was saying wasn’t true and that I’m not the enemy.  We quickly ended our visit.

This wasn’t the first time she’s flipped out with wild, crazy stuff that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.  She’s done this in the company of others, at my home with other guests, in front of her kids and mine.

I realize she has serious matters that truly need the help of a professional.  And, I feel it is my duty, as one who knows she’s on a precipice, to offer compassion.  But do I have to be a doormat and take abuse?  Is it valid for me to say I feel for you but it’s not OK to abuse me?  I realize you’re an etiquette professional, not a psychologist, but I think my question falls within the parameters of etiquette, yes?

Thank you for any advice you may have!

Dear Helping:

How well Etiquetteer remembers the political wife in Advise and Consent, who cried to her senator husband “All I want to do is stand beside you and you give me no place to stand!” Etiquetteer commends your courage in wishing to continue to be of help to someone you hold dear, but whose behavior, at least, doesn’t reciprocate those feelings.

According to your query, “Friend” has a habit of lashing out, in situations when you’re alone with her or with others. What seems to set her off is when you “share your own perspective,” thereby, in  her mind, taking the attention away from her. “Friend” may in fact prefer an audience and platitudes to friendship, good advice, and genuine concern. This does not make her behavior toward you Perfectly Proper (nothing could) or even acceptable. You have the power not to accept being treated that way. When “Friend” launches another Finger-Jabbing Tirade, tell her calmly how sorry you are that you can’t be of help, that it’s not OK to speak so violently to you, and that you’ll speak to her again when she can do so calmly. And then leave. While some might disagree, Etiquetteer would not remain should an instant apology be launched. immediate departure emphasizes one’s self-respect, and that there are limits to what can be endured. Maintaining your own composure is essential to conveying this.

As One Who Knows Etiquette and Is Not a Mental Health Professional, “Friend” appears to need some professional assistance managing the experiences with which she must deal at this time in her life. While this might risk another Tirade, if you feel particularly courageous, you may broach the subject with her. Etiquetteer wishes both you and your friend calmer seas ahead.


Condolence Correspondence, Vol. 14, Issue 39

November 2nd, 2015 . by Etiquetteer

Dear Etiquetteer:

How long does one really have to write a condolence note after someone dies? Is it still acceptable to send a note a couple months later?

Dear Condoling:

Condolences really should be written and sent as soon as one learns of a death. Etiquetteer will never forget the Busy Executive who, on learning of the death of a colleague’s parent, reached instantly for the box of notecards and began penning his condolence. This is why it always helps to have a box of Perfectly Proper stationery on hand, as well as postage stamps that don’t look too celebratory.

The later one puts off a condolence, the harder it feels to write. That does not, in fact, make it harder to write; it just feels that way. Late condolences, which for the purposes of this column Etiquetteer will define as condolences written later than two weeks after the death, should include at least one of two subjects: specific reminiscences to cast a positive light on the deceased, whether humorous, inspiring, or otherwise; and the knowledge that the writer remains concerned about the recipient even after the funeral has taken place. Etiquetteer advises correspondents to avoid “If there’s anything I can do . . . ” or its variations unless one really is ready to do anything when the condoled call for help.


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